Wednesday, October 31, 2007

our high school tragedy...

the "memory board" at the class reunion included pictures and dates of deceased classmates. apart from Diane Warner, another picture caught my eye. Jim Gray died in 2004. he was another of the small circle of social miscreants I befriended.

Jim was mostly outcast because of his weight. his elephantine physique conspired to keep Jim out of most social functions, so he stayed to himself. we shared a couple of classes. I liked his quiet humor and we became friends. Jim had very few friends, but his best friend was Mike Patrick, a fellow "Class of '67" graduate and older brother to Sharon Patrick.

both Mike and Sharon Patrick were shy soft-spoken kids. both were gifted, good-looking, and athletic. Sharon had amazing eyes which only fed her elusive manner. she was truly a "strange little girl". sometimes quiet, sometimes bubbly. the Patricks lived in a nearby subdivision close enough for me to walk to after school. I spent many afternoons at Sharon's house. more than once I would arrive to find her nursing a sick baby raccoon or saving a bird fallen from its nest. she loved animals and nature just as I did. we were never an "item" but we were close friends. Sharon Patrick was the self-appointed President of The Denims Fan Club and rarely missed a show.

her brother Mike Patrick was an athlete. I seem to remember him being in track and also pole vaulting. who decides to be a pole vaulter? I admired Mike's physical ability almost as much as Jim Gray did.

one night Jim and Mike were riding in a car near Mike's neighborhood when they happened upon a car wreck. they were the first on the scene of the crash. being good kids they tried to help before the police arrived. there was a power line down across the road. Mike feared it might be dangerous for passing motorists. he tried to move the power line. if Jim hadn't somehow pulled Mike off the power line Mike would have been killed. as it was, both his arms were burnt off.

as if the perfect example of life's most ironic cruelty were needed, a super-nice soft-spoken bright athletic young man lost both his arms just trying to be helpful.

The Denims eventually raised $5,000 for Mike's battle and our whole school joined together in support. I have never seen Mike Patrick again and have lost contact with Sharon as well. but sometimes I re-live the horror.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

50 year-old plumbing...

this past weekend martha and I drove the Mighty Crossfire SRT-6
to the Holiday Inn Airport in Northern Kentucky for our
Boone County High School class reunion. Class of '67.
I was 17 when I graduated and as you can see I looked like I wore a squirrel on my forehead.
those were the days.

my classmates certainly are some of the nicest people. after all, we were the "summer of love" kids. it was great to see everyone. my best friend kenny nevels (and his long-suffering wife christy) were our companions for the evening. kenny and I began sharing classes in the sixth grade right on through high school. (see the blog "Ludlow Marching Panthers" from April 26). we had so much fun growing up together.

apart from kenny and a few other friends, in my high school daze I kept mostly to myself. the friends I had were social "outcasts" just as I was, but because I was in The Denims and because The Denims were such a popular band in our school, I was tolerated. many years later I found out my classmates actually respected me.
they called me "the quiet revolutionary".

I was in the first year firing line of kids who were in trouble for having their hair "over their ears". I was always in trouble for my bizarre clothes, beatle boots, and "long" hair (which barely crept over my ears). one day near the end of my senior year I heard my name called over the loudspeaker (causing the usual eruptions of laughter) as I was commanded to appear in Mr. Jones' office. Rector Jones (yes, Rector) was our school superintendent. between Mr. Jones and our principal Mr. Norman I was being squeezed into cutting my hair short one last time for graduation. Mr. Jones actually excused me from class to take me to the local Dairy Queen where he bought me a chocolate milkshake! this was highly unheard of. as we sat in his car nervously talking, he finally revealed his true agenda and the reason for being so gracious.
"steve," he said slowly, "you make decent grades and seem like a nice enough fellow; why do you have to be such a martyr?"

it didn't work. having been suspended one too many times for "dress code violation" I was in no mood to compromise. after all, my "long" hair was part of my vocation. every weekend while all the other kids were busy figuring out the dating game, I was playing music for them. in those days the length of your hair was the big concern. these days it's the caliber of weapon you carry.

at the reunion martha was talking to one of my classmates who remembered this story:
he told martha he sat behind me in English class. he remembered how often I was called to the principals office and how outrageous some of my sartorial choices were. he said one day in English class the teacher suddenly stopped, took a long look at me, and said, "do you think wearing those clothes you'll ever make something of yourself? people can't depend on making a living in rock music."
and I said, "I will."

another classmate surprised my memory bank by reminding me of a game we used to play in my neighborhood on Valley Drive. it was a kissing game played at dusk by the neighborhood teenage boys and girls in which you chased each other around in the wooded areas behind the houses. when you caught a girl (or she caught you) you were supposed to kiss her. a better version of hide and seek no doubt, but much more innocent than it sounds. she said when I would catch her my kisses were the best. she remembered they were
"soft and sweet".

on the "memory board" I was very surprised to learn of the death of one of the few people I hung out with. a very strange girl named Diane Warner. she was a self-imposed outcast and best friend of another of my close friends Sharon Patrick (more on her in the next post). Diane was indeed unusual. she smoked a pipe! a strong-willed loner, Diane didn't suffer most people. she kept to herself. but because of my friendship with Sharon, Diane accepted me.
sadly, I found out she committed suicide at age 44.

I have never been able to truly see myself as a "grown up". the adults I revered in my youth were such a strong and responsible bunch. they had lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War Two and set into motion a life of ease for us "boomers". despite my parents cavalier humor they seemed like responsible adults. I have always felt more like a kid.

my only complaint about aging: 50 year-old plumbing.

Monday, October 29, 2007

More Congratulations!...

to my pal and bandmate Tony Levin
who was given a Lifetime Achievement Award
by Bass Player Magazine this weekend in NYC.

well, tony,
I guess you're finished now.

Heaven's Bed/Member Of The Tribe (duet)

heaven's bed/
member of the tribe
volume 4 number 5

more of the fab two.
this could be
a warm-up for
our SMARTIES contest
beginning soon.
just for practice sake,
you can write your
own song over top
of these two tracks.
or, if you're a bassist,
fill in the blanks.

point of interest: for member of the tribe chris substituted his hi-hat with a hubcap!

"isn't this a dull affair,
enough to make me lose my hair,
tax returns and future earnings..." I thought to myself
"still the Gods haven't lost their flair
at least they put me and her together,"
and just as I was about to tell her
she said to me
"take me up to heaven, up into the sky
our love is strong enough to fly"

there I sat with the paper in my lap
reading facts about terrible acts
"Kids With Guns Kill For Fun"
so I started to preach...
"that's the trouble with society," I said,
"no respect for humanity"
and just as I was building up steam
she said to me
"lay your dreams beneath my head
up here on heaven's bed.
let your eyes be the stars in the night
up here on heaven's bed."

"you need to leave your mind alone,"
she said to me.

drums: chris arduser
guitar: adrian
engineer: rich denhart
assistant: dan harjung
recorded at Royal Recorders in Lake Geneva, Wis
on August 19 and 20
length: 7:49

Thursday, October 25, 2007


to my friends The Ventures!
they have been nominated as inductees into
the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

before The Beatles there was The Ventures.
they certainly were an influence on me.
when I first heard The Ventures I was a drummer in the school band*.
all the kids in my neighborhood loved The Ventures.
they were the popular music at our school dances
and especially a favorite of the musicians.
before I ever touched a guitar, they made me want to play one.
I loved the sounds they made (I still do).
they were musical pioneers.
nobody else sounded like The Ventures.
maybe that's why I have always felt a kinship to their music.

and they're still a great band today.
congratulations boys, I hope you win!

* it would be another six years before I put my hands around a guitar neck, but when I did walk don't run was the first song I remember learning (followed by you've got to hide your love away) the year was 1966. by then I was a junior in high school.

Monday, October 22, 2007

the Mercedes 300 SL roadster replica...

here are a couple of shots of the Mercedes 300 SL before I sold it. keep in mind it was a replica. the real thing costs several hundred thousand dollars. they are very sought after. only 1,000 are known to exist worldwide. made in 1957 the 300 SL roadster and its brother the notorious "Gullwing" 300 SL coupe brought Mercedes Benz back from near-total destruction in World War II. this is the car that announced their return to dominance in racing and production cars. I hated to sell even a replica of such a beautiful car. it is my favorite body style ever to dress a production vehicle. but it financed my brand new Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6, also an awesome car.

This Is What I Believe In/Standing In The Shadow (duet)

this what I believe in/
standing in the shadow (duet)
volume 4 number 4

during the making
of inner revolution
manager stan made
the good suggestion
that perhaps a "sparing partner" would assist the recording process. we asked bears drummer chris arduser to join me in the studio for two days to hammer out 4 songs.

for this week and next I'm offering the 4 songs we did in their barest form, just guitar and drums. perhaps the bassist would like to play along? as usual, I find it informative to hear the very beginning of tracks before the additional bells and whistles. so this is what chris and I played for two days in August 1991. I hope you find it interesting as well.
in this is what I believe in the guitar (which sounds like two parts) was played on one guitar by means of the Roland GR-50 synth which allowed you to write a different sound on each string. using an acoustic guitar patch I wrote a different tuning for each string in addition to the original note played on each string. the resulting chords and running lines would otherwise be impossible to play. the lyric has a few lines which seem even more relevant now than they did 16 years ago when they were written so I'm reproducing them here:

hold tight to your faith
don't let nobody make you jaded
your love is precious
give it somebody who deserves it
this is what I believe in

hold tight to yourself
don't let nobody give you hell
your life is sacred
live it right, live it your way
this is what I believe in

all the world is a cannibal
even time itself will eat us all
but that's no reason to be a jerk
you either make it better
or make it worse

I believe this, I believe it's true
I believe it, I believe this

all the world is dangerous
full of homicidals and terrorists
but underneath their blanket of hate
the only thing that will survive is our love and faith.

drums: chris arduser
guitar: adrian
engineer: rich denhart
assistant: dan harjung
recorded at Royal Recorders in Lake Geneva, Wis
on August 19 and 20
length: 7:33

Thursday, October 18, 2007

For Sale: My Life...

for those of you interested in my car fixation I have recently listed two of my cars to be sold on eBay motors. they will be there for another 6 days. the first one (above top) is a custom-bodied CRX si, a quick agile little "pocket rocket" which I adore. I've had it since it was new in 1991 and still called a Honda CRX si. now it called a "Vitesse" by the customizers, a shop in Toronto. it took 3 months of labor to convert. such a fabulous car to drive, if you don't mind being constantly asked questions from twentysomething guys.
the second car (above bottom) is anything but quick but it's a beautiful all-original "land yacht". a 1963 Chrysler Imperial Crown, a huge car with a square steering wheel and push-button transmission! what could be cooler! we have always called it "the imperial hammerhead" for its odd looking face. when I was a teenager I thought these were the ugliest things on the road. now I drive one! for anyone interested in seeing more about the cars go to eBay motors. the Vitesse is #170159897999. The Imperial is # 170160281888.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Anecdote #46

my last time seeing frank zappa face to face
was just months before his death in December 1993.
I went to the zappa abode for a short visit.
he looked like the picture above,
which was a shock.
frank was obviously ill, his voice a whisper.
instead of the vibrant frank I knew
there was an older man.
only 52 but seeming very weak and tired.
in place of his usual habit of chain-drinking espresso
he was sipping orange juice freshly squeezed by his maid.
frank talked about his latest project.
the conversation drifted off.
I felt a tinge of guilt taking his time.
soon he excused himself to rest for a while.
our interlude was over.

I prefer to remember a different ending.
one night in late 1992 I woke up from a vivid dream.
I looked at the clock. 6 AM.
I couldn't get back to sleep.
in my dream frank and I were laughing and talking,
having a lively conversation about music and things.
it felt good, like a friendship.

since I couldn't sleep I went downstairs
and sat in a chair, replaying the dream.
there was no such thing as e-mail then,
about the fastest delivery was by fax.
so I decided to send a fax to frank.
in my fax I told him about the dream.
then I said I had never properly thanked him
for all he had done for me
and I wanted say "thanks".
I had no idea at that time that frank was ill and dying.

later that afternoon I got a call.
it was frank. what a great surprise!
he said to me, "that was sweet".
that's the word he used: sweet.
not a word you would normally associate
with the acerbic edgy satirist.

we proceeded then to have a wonderful conversation
much like the one in my dream.

and that's the way I remember frank.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Collage for Girl With Clouds

collage for girl with clouds
volume 3 number 8

according to Random House's Word Menu
musique concrete is defined as a recorded montage
of electronically manipulated and transformed natural sounds
presented as a composition.

there was one giant leap for radiokind in the mid-sixties,
the briefest of moments when it was acceptable to add
bits of musique concrete into your pop songs
and still have them played on the airwaves.
most notably it was the beatles of course,
(who at that time could do no wrong)
who were able to sneak in conversation, laughter,
backward sounds, radio noise, and other
musical non sequitur into the pop vernacular
and still be appreciated by housewives everywhere.

musique concrete
was born in the 1940's by a small group
of mostly french avante garde composers headed by Pierre Schaeffer.
it was never "popular" but did manage to create outrage.

one night spent at the zappa abode,
frank had put on a record from Edgar Varese,
(I think it was poeme electronique)
one of frank's favorite pieces of musique concrete.
he wanted to introduce me to music
which he found inspiring.
as with most of this type music the sounds seemed random;
electronic and organic.
frank had two large dogs who were barking outside.
I said, "the dogs fit right in, frank."
frank said, "you're beautiful, adrian."

I have always had a soft spot for musique concrete works
and began including them in my solo records from the very start
with a track called hot sun on lone rhino.
others include (my favorite) cruelty to animals from mr. music head
things you hit with a stick, nude wrestling with a christmas tree
and the return of the chicken from belewprints,
from side one,
and the red bull rides a boomerang
across the blue constellation
from side three.

for the bears song girl with clouds from rise and shine
I wanted to enhance the lyrical imagery of a daydreamer,
someone who always seemed distracted,
always had their head in the clouds.
the poster child for ADD.
voila! time for musique concrete.

"found sounds" and bits of tapes randomly spliced together
are quintessential ingredients for such a piece,
and when blended into the background of an otherwise "pop" song
it can create a sense of distraction.

so I put together this little collage from things
we had at hand in the studio control room:
some backwards snippets of various bears songs,
a drunk hillbilly comedian, Japanese folk music,
a percussion ensemble in concert, and my favorite,
a somber explanation of an SSL console meant for
recording engineers trying to figure out such things.

then we mixed this track into the background of
girl with clouds.
the collage was never meant to be heard on its own
but I think it has an interesting moment or two
so I'm including it here.

engineer: rich denhart
assistant: dan harjung

recorded at Royal Recorders in Lake Geneva, Wis.

on November 28, 1987
length: 2:58

Thursday, October 11, 2007


the dismantling and re-building of StudioBelew has begun in earnest.
the monumental task of taking it all apart,
storing or selling the parts we no longer need,
(including the giant 9-foot 48-channel Neotek console)
installing the new parts we will be using,
and wiring it all back together will take weeks of effort
and the ensuing chaos inherent in such an explosion,
but in the end we will have an updated more modern
and efficient place to create music.

our friend and partner in this effort is Saul Zonana.
most of you know saul as my one-man-band opening act
for many of our shows of the last two years.
he is of course a very talented and capable person.
a terrific songwriter, a singer with his own style,
a multi-instrumentalist, producer, and engineer.

saul, his wife nicole, and son jesse have just moved
to the nashville area (murfreesboro).
we have decided to merge our studios and abilities.
eventually this will result in very select co-productions.
more importantly it will give each of us
another set of ears, eyes, and hands to rely on.

since july of last year with the sad loss of ken
StudioBelew has mostly sat vacant.
I have spent the bulk of my efforts playing live concerts
with the mighty power trio I love.
now at last I'm ready to go back to recording mode.
this is a time of preparation for next year's work
which will include rehearsals with the new krimson,
as many live dates as possible with the power trio,
and the development of a brand new solo record.

with saul's adept engineering abilities we have
already completed side four (live) (more on that soon)
and my hope is to stoke the fire of creativity further
with a fresh round of material for the trio to play live.

for 15 years now I have owned my own studio.
no doubt it was the smartest career decision I ever made.
it's my little slice of heaven.
the place where I write or practice or experiment
or try out new devices or produce other artist's music
or play on other artist's records
or rehearse with the bears or king crimson or the trio
or outline new ideas with robert
or record my music and mix it
or listen to CDs at night
or paint my paintings
or do my phone interviews
or just sit quietly.
it's a great source of inspiration.

it used to be the daily scene of numerous activities.
I can't wait to see it flourish again.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Ruin After The Rain (piano demo)

the ruin after the rain (piano demo)
volume 4 number 14

here is the demo of the song which would eventually appear on
op zop too wah.

piano: adrian
engineer: noah evens

recorded at home in Williams Bay, Wis.

on May 5, 1993

length: 3:31

Monday, October 1, 2007

Men In Helicopters String Quartet

men in helicopters string quartet
volume 1 number 12

as with last week's download the string arrangement for men in helicopters was first conceived in my head. I could hear the parts I wanted just as I can hear harmony parts I want to sing. but putting the proper notes on paper requires the help of a trained musician. with big blue sun it was Al Jewer who helped me; with men in helicopters it was the viola player Kristin Wilkinson.

Kristin and I sat at the piano. while I played out the lines I heard in my "head arrangement" she wrote the notes down. being a "trained" string player she was able to inform me of the ranges of the instruments, and certain little helpful details. for example, would this part sound best played on the low end of the violin or the high end of the viola? she took the parts home with her to write them out correctly and even made a little home demo for me to hear.
the recording session was quick. all I needed to do was to set the tempo. the players were easily able to play the parts correctly and within a few passes we were satisfied.

when I worked with frank zappa in 1977 I asked whether or not I should now learn to read music. frank said I already knew it my own way, I just didn't know the terminology. he said it was perhaps even helpful for me not to know the rules. at any rate he recommended not to bother, saying the time it would take would not be worth it for someone at my stage of development.

for the last few years I've been listening intently to my 10-year old daughter Ava
as she practices her piano lessons in the living room on Howard the piano,
reading the notes from books.
(we moved Howard upstairs to the living room for exactly that purpose.)
it seems like she's reading out loud to me.
I can observe her thought processes.
I am more and more amazed as she gets better and better.

frank was correct in saying in effect it was too late for me to start,
but with all the available resources nowadays,
I highly recommend proper training.

first violin: david davidson

second violin: david angell
viola: kristin wilkinson
cello: john catchings
string arrangement by kristin wilkinson and adrian
engineer: ken latchney
recorded at StudioBelew in Mt. Juliet, TN.
on April 17, 1997
length: 3:22